Syria

Syria Crisis: Northeast Syria Situation Report No. 17 (1 - 20 October 2017)

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This report is produced by the OCHA Syria Crisis offices with the contribution of all sectors in the hubs and at the Whole of Syria (WoS) level. It covers the period from 1-20 October 2017. The next report will be issued on or around 15 November.

Highlights

  • The overall humanitarian and protection situation for civilians remains of high concern in Ar-Raqqa city, particularly explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination. ERW mapping and clearance is required to ensure access for humanitarian partners and create a safe environment that is conducive for voluntary returns.

  • While no civilians remain in the central neighborhoods of Ar-Raqqa city, some 2,000-3,000 individuals have returned to the eastern and western periphery of the city. The SDF have announced that no civilian returns will be permitted to the city for a period of three months. Those that attempt to return will be refused entry to facilitate ERW clearance.

  • On 12 October, the Al-Malha screening point was subject to an ISIL suicide attac, highlighting the prevailing security risks and protection gaps at IDP screening sites. The humanitarian community continues to advocate with local authorities for the relocation of screening points to secure areas.

  • Displacements from and within Deir-ez-Zor Governorate continued due to heavy fighting and airstrikes. Large influxes of IDPs from Deir-ez-Zor Governorate are straining existing capacities and services in IDP sites across north-eastern Syria resulting in increased humanitarain and protection needs.

  • The overall protection situation for civilians remains of high concern across north-eastern Syria, with ISIL reportedly actively preventing civilians attempting to flee areas under its control in Deir-ez-Zor governorate.

55,129 people displaced from Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor governorates between 1 – 15 October (Source: CCCM Cluster)

221,726 people reached with food assistance from 1 – 16 October in Ar-Raqqa,
Aleppo, Al-Hasakeh and Deir-ez-Zor governorates

540,000 families reached with Aqua tabs in rural Ar-Raqqa Governorate providing access to safe drinking water

144,414 children aged 0-59 months were vaccinated against polio in Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ezZor governorates

Situation Overview

Ar-Raqqa Governorate

On 15 October, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that an agreement was reached that resulted in the evacuation or arrest of 575 ISIL fighters, while some ISIL fighters are rumored to remain inside the city. The agreement included the evacuation of about 4,400 civilians to several locations in rural Ar-Raqqa governorate and Ain Issa camp. Additional civilians reportedly left the city on 18 and 19 October, however, their number or destination is not known. As of 15 October, the UN was aware of reports that the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) have reportedly taken control of Raqqa city.

In early October, and preceding the SDF reported control over Ar-Raqqa city, intensified airstrikes and heavy shelling continued to result in civilian deaths, widespread destruction, and deteriorating humanitarian conditions for civilians remaining in Ar-Raqqa city. More than 400 airstrikes over a two-day period during the first week of October were reported, with airstrikes reportedly killing more than 70 people in Al Bado and Suhada’a neighborhoods. On 2 October, an airstrike hit a water well located in the outskirts of the Al-Tawassoiya area in the north of Ar-Raqqa city, reportedly killing 45 civilians. On 3 October, airstrikes in Al-Shuhadaa neighborhood in northern Ar-Raqqa city also hit water wells where a group of civilians were gathering, reportedly killing at least 21 people, including three children, and injuring many others. As a result, the last two wells in the city reportedly became inoperable. On 4 October, heavy shelling reportedly affected the national hospital during intense clashes in the area.
On 9 October, local authorities and tribal leaders reached an agreement with ISIL, whereby the remaining civilians in the city would be evacuated and ISIL fighters would either surrender or be evacuated to an unknown location. All military operations, including airstrikes, ceased on the evening of 9 October. Reportedly, around 4,400 people were evacuated out of Ar-Raqqa city to Hawi Elhawa village (western countryside), for screening. Screened civilians will proceed to Ain Issa camp. It is unclear what the screening process entails or for how long people may be detained at the camp. Furthermore, an unknown number of people were taken to a prison in Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) town due to alleged links to ISIL.

As of 15 October, humanitarian actors do not have access to Ar-Raqqa city due to ongoing military operations and presence of explosive remnants of war (ERW). According to a remote humanitarian assessment of the city conducted in early October, there are no functioning bakeries or markets; lack of health care services; insufficient safe drinking water due to the limited number of functioning boreholes, and no electricity. In addition, more than half of shelters in 16 of 24 neighborhoods were reportedly unsafe to use due to damage. The destruction of the remaining water wells further decreased the already very limited supply of potable water sources in the city, and forced people to increasingly rely on unsafe water sources, exposing them to water-borne diseases.

The overall humanitarian and protection situation for civilians remains of high concern in Ar-Raqqa city, particularly ERW contamination. Since the beginning of June, at least 146 civilians were reportedly killed by landmines while attempting to flee the city. Those returning to Ar-Raqqa city are also at high risk of ERW contamination. On 14 October, two people were reportedly killed due to mine explosion in Al-Yarmouk neighborhood, where approximately 600 families recently returned. Between October 20 and 21, a further nine people were reportedly killed due to mine explosion when they tried to enter Ar-Raqqa city to check up their houses in different neighborhoods.

ERW mapping and clearance is required to ensure access for humanitarian partners and create a safe environment that is conducive for voluntary returns of IDPs. Local authorities confirmed plans to advocate against civilian returns until the city is deemed safe. Furthermore, local authorities reaffirmed the need to ensure that humanitarian assistance distribution plans do not create a pull factor for civilians to or through unsafe areas. Despite the directive issued by local authorities, the UN anticipates that civilians will return to the city to secure personal assets and to avoid the poor humanitarian situation in IDP camps. Up to 2,000 individuals have reportedly already returned to the eastern and western periphery of Ar-Raqqa city.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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